Family Business Transition: How One Family Smoothly Handled a Family Member’s Exit

A couple of weeks ago in a previous blog, I shared a story about a time I was speaking at a global family business event. One of the families in attendance asked a question. They were having a challenge around a family business transition and member who wanted to exit the business against the family’s wishes

Below is an example taken from my work with a client of mine. It illustrates very powerfully what can happen when the vision of each individual family member is considered in any sort of transition or family business succession. Personal details, such as names and industries, have been changed to protect the client’s privacy.

Family Dynamics

The Garrison’s were a two-generation family business who had been in business for quite some time. When I began working with the family, the business was being run by the father, Ted, two daughters, Sarah and Becky, and one son, James.

There were several things at play that were causing tension between family members and in the company as a whole (If you’re part of a family business, I’m sure this comes as no surprise to you.) Family dynamics can often be felt throughout the company. They impact not only family relationships, but also company culture and morale.

Sarah had been working with their father, Ted the longest. James came on several years later, and Becky was the newest family member added to the team. Despites Sarah’s tenure with the company, Becky was placed at the helm. As you can imagine, causing tension between the two.

James was working very few hours, often only 10-12 hrs per week, but receiving a large amount of compensation. He was clearly being overpaid for the value he was offering. The team knew it, and it had noticeable effects on the culture, teamwork, and morale of employees.

Beginning the Process

This is where my team entered the picture. The first step in our 4-stage process is always discovery and assessment. We carefully and intentionally assessed their current situation by having honest and vulnerable conversations with each family member. We wanted to know what was truly  important to them, what their personal core values, and what they wanted the rest of their lives to look like.

Through this stage in the process we discovered that James was extremely unhappy. He was unfulfilled. He felt guilty for the amount of money he was receiving. He was afraid to tell his family because of how they would react, or what they would do. And he had unfulfilled dreams. We learned that James’ big dream was to become a physical therapist (a profession completely different from the industry they were in.)

After this discovery, we sat together in a very emotional working session and James was able to share for the FIRST time with his sisters and father what he truly desired for his life. It was a powerful moment, and one that very possibly may never have happened had he not been given the permission in our work to explore, vocalize and get clarity on what really mattered to him.

Together with Ted, Becky, and Sarah, we were all able to formulate a plan for James to smoothly exit the business, with enough money to go back to school. A couple of years later I received an email from James with a picture of him in his new uniform and a heartfelt thank you for the work that we did together. His smile was bigger than I had ever seen it.

THIS is why I do the work that I do

Everyone in the family and the company as a whole was in a better place because of this work. When one family member is out of sync, it rocks the whole ship. Oftentimes in a succession project, people are just looking to check a box, make a quick transition. They are not looking specifically at how each person can align their life and their future, and this is when you see companies fail in the next gen.

Transitions are an opportunity for growth. Not just growth of the business or financial growth but personal growth, family healing, and deeply fulfilling transformation.

An article recently published by Camden Wealth stated the following: ” [During the pandemic] Many families were putting in place learning and development plans for the next generation to assess whether they have the desire, but also the skills to join the business.”

Today, make it a goal to ask each member of your family what it is they truly desire.

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